During the 20-year period when I was running or helping to run whitetail guide services, a great deal of my time was spent scouting.
Post season, spring, summer and pre-season. I was in the woods looking, learning, making notes. As many as 70-days a year were spent in scouting.
What an educational period that was.
Months were spent walking, boot soles worn out, notes taken and information stored. I found food sources long before the deer did. I picked out stand locations before the deer were present. I mapped and scouted travel patterns, fence and creek crossings, buck only trails and noted potential stand sites. Through it all, I added to my advanced degree in whitetail woodsmanship.
Now, I hear they are talking about using special drones to scout for deer. The "hunter" won't even have to wear shoes. Some states are already making laws to ban them, others are considering it. Some hunters are excited, ready to buy, others are shaking their heads in dismay. A direct quote. "Where can I get one? I'll buy one right now. That will be perfect for the land I have that I have never scouted because there is no road into it." That is a direct quote that I saw. Gag me with a spoon! I can see a positive use for drones. Use them to help find and recover wounded deer. But how do you enforce that?
It seems that each year, technology finds a way to dumb down hunters, making scouting and deer hunting so easy, it involves little more than plugging something into a computer.
Instead of finding what the deer are eating and how they get there, hunters plant the food under the guise of supplemental feeding and hang a camera to see how the deer get there. They talk about how many food plots they have and how much good it will do the deer herd. Then, when the deer come to eat, they pick out the one in the pictures and shoot it.
Now, time for a disclaimer. Do I hunt food plots? Yes. When I am hunting someone else's property and they have food plots and stands or shooting houses on them, yes, I hunt them and will shoot whatever I am supposed to. I also, do not feel as though I have accomplished anything other than making a good shot, (providing I do.) When someone shoots a deer, buck or doe in a food plot, the only work required was planting the plot. It requires no skill other than shooting straight. However, that is up to the hunter and I do not berate one for doing so.
Or, in some states where legal, they put out a feeder and hunt over commercial bait. Not much difference. Might as well go ahead and make it legal. I doubt that it would hurt anything unless it spreads disease.
What technology is doing to deer hunting is sad. It is robbing hunters of education, of true outdoor experiences. Looking at pictures of deer coming to a food plot or a live feed from a drone will not teach you a thing about the woods. It simply makes it easy to pick an ambush point. All you learn is how to operate a drone. But let me also state, not all technology is bad, especially the advancements in hunter safety and in clothing.
All those hours I spent running Buckhorn Guide Service here in Tennessee and Two Rivers and Tri-State in the Midwest, were among the most enjoyable days of my year and for sure, among the most educational. Seeing what deer were doing and figuring out when and why can never be replaced by looking at tape or pictures, when it comes to satisfaction. The best days were the days in Canada on DIY hunts, hunting vast tracts of land, I had never seen. The scouting was constant and usually successful. My knowledge of whitetails increased tremendously.
Compare that to going to a commercial lodge, being driven to a shooting house on a green field or 30 yards from a bait station and told just which buck I should probably see.
Which do you think I found the most enjoyable? For me, the satisfaction comes from making a decision on just how to hang a stand in an area I have never seen before, then, killing a deer from it. That is hunting. One year, after scouting a piece of land on the Assiniboine River, I convinced a hunting partner to hunt a stand I had hung. He killed the biggest deer of his life that afternoon. I was thrilled I had guessed right.
It is no surprise to me, in the past three years, I have seen an increase in the number of deer that are shot and not recovered. Hunters do not intimately know the land they are hunting and they are losing vital woodsman skills. They haven't put the boot soles to the land and learned it. They know where the food plot is and how to get to the stand, shooting house or ground blind. Great info to pass on to youngsters, right? How about what trails the alarmed or wounded deer is likely to take? They don't learn how and where deer travel.
I hunt a small farm or less than 100-acres. Each year, I walk it several times. There are no food plots, no cameras, or feeders. Each year, the magnet trees change, the fruit trees change. There is only one way I can get that information-walk the land-look and learn. Imagine how much time I spent covering 10,000-acres, half of it in hardwood ridges and bottoms. But at Tri-State, in three years of bowhunters only, we failed to recover only one deer and I believe it survived. Our success rate was 50%-75%, bowhunting only and well over 75% of the deer killed exceeded P&Y minimums. And this was before cameras. We had to work to learn where to put the 55-stands each year.
The day is approaching when the deer hunter can simply pick up remote from the table beside his recliner, dial up the information, pick the deer and push the shoot button. His rifle, mounted on a swivel-head near his feeder, will adjust and wait until the right deer walks up. Then, when the I.D. is confirmed, it will zero in and shoot. Then, a bell will notify the hunter he has killed his deer.
Hunger Games, changed bowhunting for the better. It increased the number of archers, especially women.
Maybe we need a show on actually hunting the way it should be-far different from the way most of it shown on TV.
Problem is, if you don't kill a "trophy" buck between the 20 minutes of commercials, nobody will watch.
Of course, this is all just the opinion of an old man nearing his 61st year of hunting.
What do I know?
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